Background point 1: the Woke Mob in Hollywood has, for the past few years, been twisting itself into a self-righteous tizzy about “Tropic Thunder”, the 2008 satirical action comedy best described as “The Three Amigos go to Vietnam“; three prima donna actors to to Southeast Asia to shoot a Vietnam movie, and end up in the middle of a guerrilla war.
The movie was…not bad for anything involving Ben Stiller after Something About Mary. It also included Jack Black at the peak of his overexposure…
…and Robert Downey Junior, literally in (supposedly, satirically) blackface.
The PC mob, in full “eat its own” mode, has been on the…I can’t say “warpath” anymore, can I? The PC mob has been after the movie for Downey’s “blackface” appearance…
…notwithstanding that the whole point of the role is spoofing the arrogance of Hollywood’s “method actor” crowd, whose real-life methods weren’t a whole lot less absurd at the height of the fad. The “white method actor in blackface” schtick was, in fact, the same point the woke mob would like to make – actors sure can be disconnected, pretentious and arrogant – if they had senses of either humor or proportion.
It’s a point that is in fact, the only memorable part of that movie – which I remember being funny enough and not half bad, but then I only remember that because it’s the movie with Robert Downey in the perfectly absurd makup.
Background point 2: A key tenet of feminism is that women can do literally everything men can – and, more proximate to this post, females can do anything males can. (We’ll leave out the whole “even if they’re trans men and they’re in a weightlifting competition” bit – for purposes of this post, anyway).
OK. On to the post.
I don’t watch a lot of TV. I literally went six years without watching a network TV show – from the finale of The Office til sometime in 2020, I didn’t watch a single network television show (and other than local weather, nothing on their local affiliates).
For that matter, I went from the finale of Breaking Bad until probably a few months into the pandemic without watching much of anything on cable.
And truth be told, my habits haven’t changed much.
Even a show with a brilliant promotional campaign will rarely reel me in – and I say “rarely” out of pure intellectual honesty; it could happen, it might have happened, but I honestly can’t recall if it has happened.
If there was a show whose promos were not, no way, no how, ever going to reel me in, it’s…
QUICK NOTE FROM MITCH – This next bit is going to make me appear to be just a tad clueless – which would be true in the context of “someone who cares about prime-time cable TV as a part of his life. As estabished above, this is not the case.
On with the post
…the TBS “comedy” Chad.
Over watching promos off and on for a few weeks, I gathered (correclly) that the show is about a middle school boy going through the awkward early teens, as part of a single-parent family of Persian immigrants. The first concept has been done to death, sometimes fairly well (Freaks and Geeks, set roughly in my senior year of high scholl, had its positively incandescent moments, and that’s not just “Hey, it’s Linda Cardellini!” talking). The second could actually be an intriguing extra conceit – the immigrant experience could be the subject of some excellent entertainment, if our entertainment industry were less complacent and awful.
Now, it goes without saying Chad, from its promos on TBS, appeared to be a capable, watchable comedy about neither idea.
But that was a secondary issue – because there was something about the promos that was, beyond unfunny and uninteresting, just intensely unsettling. And it focused on the eponymous protagonist, “Chad”. Just watching the promos, something didn’t add up. The kid was too…
…pretty? Like someone took a normal teenage boy and tried to make him look like he was trying to fake being a Vogue model?
Every time I saw “Chad” in a promo, my gut-level observation was – I’m not making this up – “he looks like the guy in the Burger King mask”.
But the look wasn’t the most disconcerting part.
Even in the promos – the little thirty second clips designed, I stress, to entice one to watch the show, something always seemed wrong. Like, the person playing a teenage boy, who appeared to be (or, given Hollywood’s practice of casting people in their 20s and even 30s to play teenagers, at least have been) a teenage boy, seemed to have no clue how teenage boys acted, thought or had ever felt. It was nothing especially overt – just a nagging sixth sense, watching the pratfalls and quips on the promos, that that teenage boy character was just wrong.
Anyway, the other night I dozed off watching Big Bang Theory reruns (I know , whatever) and woke up just in time to catch Chad’s premiere.
And every single observation I made about the character above got shifted into high gear. I actually wanted to see more of the “immigrant” stuff – the stories have always fascinated me, all the moreso since I’ve been researching my various great grandparents experiences.
But all the way through – well, for the probably 10-15 minutes I watched – the sensation dogged me:
The writers are writing the right lines for a middle school boy. But the teenage boy delivering the lines isn’t making me believe anything about them, from his look to the feeling behind the delivery.
It finally got to be too much. I grabbed my phone and opened up IMDB.
And I got my answer to the question “why does the protagonist look, and deep down in my gut feel, like someone who’s not, and has never been, a teenage boy, and why does he give me that reverse-drag-show feel?” – literally, the words that went through my head as I opened up the app.
And that explained it.
The show’s star and creator is Nasim Pedrad. She was on Saturday Night Live for five years, which explains why I’ve never heard of her and she’s doing a show on TBS.
She’s a woman – and a very attractive one at that (by the conventional western beauty standards that I proudly observe) but, let’s make sure we add, a 39 year old one. Which certainly explains my intial gut-feelings that “Chad” is “too pretty” for a teenage boy – Pedrad most certainly is – and that “he” apparently was wearing enough makeup on camera to make Kathy Bates pass for Anna Kendrick.
But let’s forget all that for a moment.
Who, in a Hollywood that winds itself into knots over “cultural appropriation” when someone like Robert Downey Jr. doesn’t do it (he was playing an arrogant actor, not a black man), did anyone think someone who’d never been a teenage boy, could play one? Not in terms of aping the mannerisms unconvincingly – Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie and Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire did it badly, on purpose – but in having the foggiest idea how to look, sound and feel like one of the most complex characters there is, an adolescent male? To have those raging hormones, the roiling anger and awkward physicality (and not just awkward in the “woman trying to play a male” sense of the term), the inchoate need to simultaneously belong and to be independent? Things that don’t translate, even biologically, to the adolescent female experience?
I don’t believe in the woke/PC notion of “cultural appropriation”, of course – unless you are part of an Amazonian tribe that’s been out of contact with the world for centuries, all culture is “appropriated”.
Anyway – it’s not very good.
Normally, I’d throw in a crack about “I watch it so you don’t have to” around this point. But after my trip to IMDB settled that nagging doubt, I switched to the news.
Chad is awful. And, considering that the whole “immigrant story” thing is so badly done by show-biz today, a wasted opportunity.
So – TBS airs:
- Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, not only the un-funniest entry into late night TV, but the one whose approach to interviewing Biden and Kamala Harris makes Esme Murphy look like Mike Wallace in his prime
- Snowpiercer, perhaps the dumbest premise for a TV drama I can personally recall
- Conan O’Brien, who has over two decades pretty much turned into a parody of “Conan O’Brien”
- The Go Big Show, a contest show that needs to go much smaller – as in, un-noticeable
- Wipeout – an adaptation of the vastly better Most Extreme Elimination Challenge which isn’t bad, per se, but can never match the pure glory that was MXC.
TBS apparently means “Television, But Sucky”.